Peace and Justice discusses immigration issues

Oscar Chicas

The Greater Philadelphia Higher Education Peace and Justice Consortium consisting of peace and justice centers from area colleges assembled and highlighted imminent comprehensive immigration reform legislation as an issue on which to focus efforts in the coming months, at a meeting held on Jan. 5.

A brainstorming session followed several weeks later, adding the voice of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition as well as Catholic Relief Services representatives reporting to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, on Jan 25.

As result of these meetings Dr. Suzanne Toton and Joyce Zavarich of the University’s center for peace and justice education in conjunction with Villanova students Kerry Leone, Christopher Lamarr and Jamie Gentile pledged a campaign to write at least 200 letters to Pennsylvania senators Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter, in support of the Catholic position on immigration issues.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Specter, is expected to review Senate legislation reforming immigration in the early part of this year. The Peace and Justice Consortium deemed House legislation on immigration unfavorable to the established Catholic position on immigration.

As chair of the Republican Conference Committee, Santorum, a noted Catholic, will play a crucial role in drafting the final legislation to send to President Bush for approval.

The USCCB Committee on Migration and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network resolved to make comprehensive immigration reform with special emphasis on legal immigration a major public policy priority within the church in June 2004.

Comprehensive immigration reform is understood to include five specific provisions: a workable and effective solution to bring 11 million undocumented immigrants into the legally acknowledged workforce; broader legal channels to insure visas for future workers and the accompanying labor rights; reduction of family backlogs so families may be reunited more promptly; more efficient enforcement techniques; and integration of immigrants into the civic and social fabric of American communities.

The Catholic campaign for immigration reform, loosely titled “Justice For Immigrants,” is dedicated to the mission outlined by the pastoral letter, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope,” issued jointly by U.S. and Mexican Catholic bishops in January 2003.

The letter cites four specific missions: a broad based legalization of undocumented foreign nationals; reform of the family-based immigration system to allow family members to reunite with loved ones in the United States; reform of the employment-based immigration system to provide legal pathways for migrants to come and work in a safe, humane and orderly manner; abandonment of the border “blockade” enforcement strategy and restoration of due process protections for immigrants.

A panel discussion to clarify these positions and plan further action along those lines was held Wednesday in the Connelly Cinema. Today, area colleges, as part of the Peace and Justice Consortium, will assemble at nearby Cabrini College to amalgamate signed letters and rally for change.

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